The Tule Elk, the smallest subspecies of American elk, were once abundant across California from the Central Valley to the Coast. Endemic to only California, historical population estimates range from 250,000 to half a million individuals across the Golden State. By the late 19th century, the Tule Elk were nearly extinct with only a few individuals left hiding in the marshes of the southern San Joaquin Valley. Luckily, a conservation oriented rancher named Henry Miller owned vast holdings in the Central Valley. Upon discovering a few surviving elk hiding among the tules (reeds) he ordered his men to protect them. Upon Miller's death, the slaughter of the native Elk resumed. In 1933 rancher Walter Dowe captured the few elk left and transported them to his property in the Owens Valley, east of the Sierra. Although this is not native habitat, the elk began to thrive there. In 1960 Mrs Tasker (Beula) Edmiston founded The Committee For the Preservation of the Tule Elk after attending a meeting where state officials were planning a special hunt for tule elk in Owens Valley. The “hunt” was a disgrace. A helicopter drove elk hiding in the alluvial foothills of the eastern Sierra to a waiting firing squad off interstate route 395. The State determined that elk in Owens Valley should not exceed 490 animals. The State claimed that there was no room for Tule Elk and the State Department of Fish and Game even petitioned Oregon and Arizona to take them. Those States refused because Tule Elk are not native there. The Committee responded that Point Reyes was a perfect candidate for reintroduction and in 1978 eleven tule elk were reintroduced to Tomales Point where the last elk had been shot in 1866. Today, the Tule Elk thrive in the Park but are confined to only a small portion of the Peninsula because of the vast ranches. People come to Point Reyes to see the elk in a natural setting free of the killings but the National Park Service wants to shoot the elk to satisfy the park lessees who graze over 5,000 head of cattle on what used to be productive Coastal Prairie. In 1978, Herbie was the first Tule Elk to be reintroduced to the Park after being regionally extinct for over a century. After being part of one of the most successful reintroduction programs in National Park history, Herbie's descendants are going to be culled to allow the continuation of commercial ranching.
Disregarding climate change, science and more than 7,000 comments from the public, the NPS has released its final General Management Plan Amendment for ranching at Point Reyes Seashore. The plan extends 20-year leases to the 24 ranchers grazing cattle in the Natl. Seashore, allows livestock diversification, and calls for the killing of native Tule elk.
By Peter Byrne
Pacific Sun/N. Bay Bohemian Jun 30, '21
The Pacific Sun/Bohemian has uncovered that the National Park Service at Point Reyes has killed tule elk, often in torturous ways, in medical experiments for decades. The federal agency absolves itself of any moral responsibility by blaming nature for the deaths. If only that were true.
The National Park Service has issued a press release revealing that 152 Tule elk, one-third of the Tomales Point herd, died at Point Reyes National Seashore. The deaths occurred because elk were trapped behind an 8-foot fence that encloses the park’s Tule Elk Reserve, where the NPS confines the rare elk to keep them off parklands reserved for cattle.
The Sierra Club has become extremely concerned
about Pt Reyes Nat'l Seashore’s management
of the 2,600-acre Tomales Point Elk Reserve.
254 Tule elk died in the 'Reserve' during the 2012-2015 drought (47% of the population)
while the wild, free-roaming Drakes Beach and Limantour herds increased.
The NPS allowed another 152 elk to die in the Tomales Point enclosure last year.
Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic took legal action against the National Park Service today for its negligence in allowing tule elk to die slow and preventable deaths as a result of starvation and dehydration at Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California.